World Bank Mining Ruling Will Only Bring More Pain to Haiti

By Nathalie
Baptiste (Haiti Liberte)
In early
February, in yet another blow to Haitian civil society, the World Bank refused
to hear a complaint filed by the Justice Mining Collective on the revival of
the mining sector in Haiti.
            According to the World Bank, Haiti’s
mining sector is constrained by “outdated legal framework, weak institutional
capacity and widespread lack of information” about the sector among politicians
and the public alike. Meanwhile, activists and community members that live in
mining zones have consistently voiced complaints about the effects of mining,
ranging from exploitation to environmental degradation.
            The World Bank’s refusal to address
these very real concerns about the environmental impacts of mining is a failure
to acknowledge that Haiti is on the short list of countries that will be most
affected by climate change.
            At Haiti’s first Mining Forum, held
in 2013, experts tried to convince Haiti’s government of all the positive
developments that would come from developing the country’s mining sector. And
they succeeded — at the end of the forum, then-Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
was certain that the mining sector was Haiti’s ticket out of abject poverty.
            Mining, of course, can be lucrative
for a select few — but the environmental damage would have a profound effect on
Haiti’s environment.
            In 2014, risk consultancy firm
Maplecroft released its annual Climate Change Vulnerability Risk Index, which
ranked Haiti at number 6 and classified the situation facing the country as
“extreme.” With its location in the Caribbean making it susceptible to tropical
storms, extreme deforestation, overfishing, frequent droughts and other natural
disasters, it’s no surprise that Haiti falls near the top of the list. Weak
infrastructure, dilapidated hospitals and crumbling roads only exacerbate the
problem, and the current political crisis leaves Haiti vulnerable to political
            Economic benefits aside, mining
comes at a great environmental cost. Some of the impacts include water
pollution, loss of biodiversity and soil contamination. The chemicals used in
the mining process also pose a great public health risk. Anyone with a modicum
of knowledge of Haiti knows why the country could not possibly sustain any more
public health risks or contaminated water.
            For an understanding of what gold
mining does to a country’s water supply, look no further than El Salvador.
After a mining company poisoned the San Sebastián River, members of the
community that gets its water from the river are now suffering from illnesses
like kidney failure.
            Salvadorans are currently fighting
to prevent the World Bank from handing over another gold mine to another
multinational mining company, in a desperate effort to keep the country’s
largest river, the Lempa River, from ending up like the San Sebastián.
            The World Bank’s treatment of
Haitians is similar to that of the United Nations and the cholera lawsuit; both
have long-term impacts on the livelihoods of Haitians, a fact that appears
unimportant to these international entities. Shrugging off the environmental
concerns of an extremely climate-vulnerable nation, though, is tantamount to willingly
destroying lives.
This article originally appeared on the Latin Correspondent website.